The End Of The Beginning

By

Leonard Zwelling

There’s a word for this in Yiddish. Rachmones—mercy.

Finally, the new leadership of MD Anderson made the most essential of changes required if the institution is going to put the DePinho years in its rearview mirror.

I am in Cleveland for a joyous family wedding of my niece and we had just returned from an Indian’s afternoon game at which the local stalwarts pummeled the Texas Rangers 5 to 1 behind a stellar pitching performance by Cleveland’s ace hurler Corey Kluber. He made exactly one mistake in eight complete innings– a home run he gave up to the third hitter that left Progressive Field with a stewardess on it. The rest of the way it was all Indians.

We had walked from the beautiful downtown ballpark past Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers, and my phone rang next to the bed. It was my good friend Paul Goldberg asking me if I had heard about the changes announced today at MD Anderson. Those changes are long overdue and repeatedly called for by this blogger.

The entire line on the org chart of Executive Vice Presidents is gone. Dan Fontaine, set to retire in six months, will now be an advisor only until his departure. Tom Buchholz will return to his past life where he actually did a lot of good caring for people with cancer. Ethan Dmitrovsky will be given the job of running the core grant, something well within his abilities to do. Being Provost was not within his sweet spot.

For reasons of which most blog readers are aware, these are particularly felt by my family as justice.

There are many other changes to the org chart as well.

Hicks and Hahn, who are starting to adjust nicely to their new roles, will stay as President and Deputy.

A series of vice presidents are arrayed below them overseeing areas as distinct as personnel, finance, governmental relations, external development and marketing, strategy, and regulatory affairs.

Congrats to Karen Lu, a superb choice for the new Chief Medical Officer, ad interim. It’s about time there was a woman in such a role. Steve Sherman, a truly terrific person, is the new Chief Academic Officer, another good choice.

That does not mean I do not see trouble.

There is still a PhD among the Division Heads. Why? What is her role in that room?

The Moon Shots Program lives. Why? Has its value been proven now? I doubt it.

But these last two issues are minor ones.

In general, I laud and applaud these latest changes in the hierarchy of MD Anderson. The US News and World Report rankings should be out soon and regardless of where MD Anderson winds up, it is likely to be high, a perfect position from which to make needed improvements.

The last 15 years have been tumultuous ones for MD Anderson. Let’s hope these latest changes end this period of unrest and reinvigorate the faculty toward even greater productivity and a deeper appreciation that these administrators have as their primary job the advancement of the mission of MD Anderson by facilitating the work of that faculty and the thousands who support that work.

Let’s hope the leadership doesn’t forget this essential principle again. They must be servant leaders if MD Anderson is to prosper—again.

Leonard Zwelling